By / Feb 16

Obviously, all comic-book, super-hero movies create a fiction. That’s the point.

Good normally triumphs over evil on a grand stage as the super-hero’s and the villain’s powers are pitted against each other.  

But previous PG-13 rated super-hero movies, such as Iron Man, Spiderman and Captain America, were fictions that most teenagers and even families could appropriately entertain and enjoy.

That is why there is an appeal and an intrigue for young men, indeed men in general, to move beyond the tamer super-heroes to a hero (should we call him that?) like Deadpool, who doesn’t push past, but shreds the moral envelope.

After all, a hero who laces his language with profanity, raunchily enjoys the sexual bestowments of his brazen benefactress (even Ryan Reynolds thought there was too much sex in the film), and is able to define his own rules in fighting “evil,” is a dark fiction many men crave.

Men who would probably be ashamed of verbalizing such fantasies are showing up big at the box office for this new movie. Deadpool grossed over 135 million on its opening weekend, smashing its competition. Its success is already drawing the eyes of Hollywood producers, meaning there will be probably be more films like it.

I agree with Phillip Holmes that watching Deadpool or other sexually explicit and crude films like it is not only morally wrong, but poses devastating moral consequences for the men and women who see them.

The church must decry Deadpool as the toxic danger that it is, and we also must present a more compelling vision—a vision for the less-traveled path to the kingdom of Christ. A vision of how men are to act. A vision for how they are to treat women. A vision for the beauty of sex in marriage. A vision of Christ himself.

The kingdom of Christ offers more

Jesus compared the kingdom of Christ to a treasure that a man found in a field and then sold everything he had to buy that field (Matt. 13:44). The point of the parable is that the joy in obtaining the kingdom infinitely surpasses every wealth or pleasure we could contrive of in this life.

This includes every illicit fantasy, power-play or exotic experience a Hollywood director could conceivably imagine.

The big takeaway is that there is a much better well from which we can drink than what we are offered in smutty movies like Deadpool. There is a much better outlet for the desires of our hearts than staring into the slough of filth, draped with roses.

At the heart of the kingdom of God is Jesus himself. And only Jesus can satisfy the thirsts of our souls (John 6:22-59). These other pursuits, not only morally degrading, fail to satisfy our souls.

Toward a Christ-like honoring of women

The hope of the gospel of the kingdom is not only that we would inherit Christ himself, but that we would be transformed to be like him.

Paul in Romans 8:29 declares, “For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” The hope of Christianity is not only a relationship with Jesus, but the promise of the transformation of our entire being into the very image of Jesus.

This means that Christian men, rather than objectifying women on the screen, should become men who value all women as beautiful image-bearers of God (Gen. 1:27). Jesus clearly delineated the way men should treasure women, by hoisting the standard of purity beyond the superficial, to a new standard of the heart.

“Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27).

Christ’s intention is for men to value all women as image-bearers of God, and Christian women especially as fellow heirs of Christ (1 Pet. 3:7).

There is no room for a hypocritical chink in the armor; no margin to voice allegiance to Christ and then attempt to justify slipping into a theater to see a movie like Deadpool.

In fact, we are to flee from seeing debasing scenes like these. Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:29).

Fleeing temptation for the salvation of our souls

Speaking of fleeing, while reading through Genesis, I was recently reminded of the necessity to flee from evil. Joseph encountered a temptation not unlike a Hollywood fantasy many men would crave to see, much more experience (Gen. 39).

Joseph’s boss was out of town, and his wife, pampered and powerful, implores Joseph to sleep with her.

This has all the making of a lustful fantasy, which would sell big at the box office: A female authority figure demanding sex from an inferior male. Many men in that situation would cowardly oblige.

But Joseph resists, not because the offer was not enticing, but because he does not want to “sin against God” (Gen. 39:9). He desires a future kingdom, and not the fleeting pleasures of illicit sex which would be wicked before God.

But the temptation doesn’t end there. She makes repeated advances by asking him to sit next to her or to lie down with her. Again, many would cave under such pressure.

Finally, in frustration, she literally seizes hold of him, ordering him to sleep with her (Gen. 39:12). Now Joseph is faced with a decision: flee at the peril to his very life, or give in to her advances—after all she is superior to him and commanding him to do it.

Joseph flees from her, leaving his robe in her hands, because he seeks the city which is to come, the very kingdom of Christ, more than illicit pleasure (Heb. 13:14).

A perilous crossroads

The church is standing at a perilous crossroads. We can either take the broad road, which leads to destruction and embark on the path which lifts up vulgarity and sexual promiscuity, or we can take the narrow path, the path of righteousness (Matt. 7:12-14).

The path of righteousness seeks the kingdom of Christ and will accept nothing less. The path of righteousness demands that we view women as image-bearers of their Creator and not as twisted fantasy fulfillers. The path of righteousness commends sex as good and beautiful within the covenant of marriage. The path of righteousness extols purity.

At the end of the day, movies like Deadpool, enticing as they are to the modern man, end in one place: death.

Therefore, we must reject such fantasies and like Joseph, seek the city which is to come. We must honor women, and most importantly seek after the kingdom, and even Christ, himself.

Editors’ note: Join Kevin DeYoung, John Piper, Alistair Begg, Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Darrin Patrick, Matt Carter, and many others at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s Together for the Gospel pre-conference, “The Beauty of Complementarity” (April 11–12). Main sessions are on Monday and Tuesday, with a special women’s micro-conference on Tuesday morning. Register right now and get a free copy of Albert Mohler’s We Cannot Be Silent.

By / Jul 25

Feelings of guilt, like feelings of pain, are a gift from God. Both are warning systems alerting us that we are in danger. When these gifts are absent it poses a crisis—a person with a medical disorder in which he can feel no pain (congenital analgesia) lives in constant danger, and a person who never experiences the feeling of guilt may very well be a sociopath. Both of these are horrifying conditions, which often result in harm to self and others, but we do not need a diagnosis to misuse or abuse what God has intended for good.

Feelings of guilt and pain can be easily corrupted. Though pain is a gift from God, when someone needlessly physically mutilates him or herself, they are dishonoring God by harming his image bearer. Likewise, harboring false guilt for things that are beyond our control or because of our personal limitations in certain areas of our lives is a wicked form of spiritual self-mutilation.

It’s not about humility

False guilt is not humility. It is the result of an unhealthy self-preoccupation that is often rooted in our expectations about what we think we should be able to do and accomplish. The problem is that we do not often distinguish between true guilt and false guilt, and we mask our false guilt as humility. Wallowing in false guilt is the fruit of fixing one’s gaze on oneself rather than on the acceptance and freedom found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are objectively guilty because we have sinned against God. Our subjective feelings of guilt, when they accurately reflect what the Scripture names sin, are a path to confession, repentance and a renewed experience of the grace of God. But often our subjective feelings of guilt are not rooted in what the Scripture describes as sin, rather in our own misplaced longings and identity. Often with false guilt, the standard is not God’s revelation but our perception of how we compare to those around us. We think we should have or be able to do what we see others around us doing, so we feel guilty and begin to accuse ourselves.

Falling prey to Satan’s tactics

When we harbor false guilt we become a malicious witness, not against our brother (Deut. 19:15-20), but against ourselves. Satan’s name means adversary and accuser. He is the accuser of the brothers, and he will answer to Christ for his malicious accusations (Rev. 12:10). When we accuse ourselves and bear false guilt, we are unwittingly imaging the evil one in the world. False guilt is one of the primary weapons of Satan’s parasitic rival kingdom. I once heard my friend Russell Moore explain, “No one is more pro-choice on the way into an abortion clinic than Satan and no one is more pro-life on the way out of an abortion clinic that Satan because he thrives on hopeless accusation.”  

Genuine feelings of guilt that lead to conviction, confession and repentance do not leave the believer in self-oriented groveling but rather declaring, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). False guilt cannot lead to an experience of grace because its root is satanic self-deception. Satan’s temptations of Jesus were fundamentally accusations, based on Scripture but abstracted from the cross and the gospel. “If you are the Son of God . . .,” Satan asserts, you should be able to claim these promises right now (Matt. 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13).

Satan’s tactics have not changed. He longs for us to be gripped by the constant ache of false guilt: You do not have that? You cannot do that? Look at how much everyone around you is doing. Why didn’t you do more? You are worthless if you do not have what others have. You are not bright enough, attractive enough, credentialed enough, and successful enough to really be useful. You are a burden to those around you. This kind of false guilt is a self-feeding beast. It produces hypersensitivity and a paralyzing self-loathing that often projects self-accusation on others.

The answer found in gospel-esteem

When we become our own accuser based on false guilt, the gospel becomes eclipsed in our thinking. False guilt accuses but offers no hope. Instead of taking every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), every thought becomes a referendum on whether or not we are measuring up and whether others think we are measuring up. The answer is not found in the prevalent notion of contemporary American culture that all feelings of guilt are bad and we should focus on our personal self-esteem. The flattery-oriented, “everybody is always a winner” culture is vacuous. The answer is found in gospel-esteem. We are guilty, but Christ died for sinners, and there is forgiveness found through faith in him.

Embracing gospel truth on a daily basis means viewing our lives through the lens of Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). God’s love demonstrated on the cross of Christ atones for the sins of those who trust him and removes their condemnation. It is an act of rebellion to develop a new self-generated legalistic standard and to make accusations against oneself based on that standard. Paul declared, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

Trusting God and his all-wise providence means living the life we actually have in faithfulness to him as the most strategic and influential thing we could be doing for the sake of the gospel. Wishing we had a different life and could attain some level of self-defined success is the most worthless anti-gospel thing we could waste our time doing (Matt. 25:14-30). We are called to surrender our lives, strengths and weaknesses, ability and disability, to Jesus for his glory. Do not let anyone rob you of your gospel freedom in Christ—including you.